Back in 2009 I wrote this piece. It was about how Christianity and life in Christian community (Church) does not even have the same status of a club and society in my western secular culture. Rather discipleship is often seen as something less than all other commitments to hobbies and leisure. Where once Christian identity might have ordered life, hobbies and activities are the new para-religion that orders life.
Then back in 2010, I wrote post titled 'Salvation by Recreation'. Using the book by Dominic Erdozain 'The Problem of Pleasure', I explored how our sports and activities have become the most virtuous things we can engage in. We don't 'entertain ourselves to death' but 'play our way to virtue'. The most virtuous way to bring up our kids is to ensure they have access to all sports, hobbies and leisure, for that is the way that true identity is formed, and anything less is tantamount to abuse. Its why parents will often choose sports and leisure for their kids and discipleship comes a distant second for family practices.
With that in mind, I've been wondering how we might learn something about discipleship through understanding the way sports and societies initiate membership, orient, train and equip people, and engage with commitments of time, energy and money.
For the last 18 months I've joined a motorbike skills riding group, become a member, and now am training as an observer, able to teach others advanced riding skills. I've loved the riding and learning, but it's also put me into the middle of a group of very passionate and committed people, and the parallels with with Christian discipleship seem immediately obvious. So in no particular order, here are some connections I've made. Can you make any others with your interests and activities?
1. Passion: The group is full of people who love to ride motorbikes, helping others become better riders and enjoy their own riding. Giving up my saturday to observe a guy who had been training, and to see him pass his advanced riding test was a buzz. Helping people get passionate about what you are passionate about.
2. Tradition: There are skills and methods, that have been handed on personally that get handed on personally again, and again. And whilst there is variation in practices, core beliefs and values and expectations for riding take place. We try to make other people ride like us, whilst they are enjoying their own ride.
3. Commitment: All observers give their time for free. Some work in order to just ride as a way of life, to go out as often with others, and see them grow and become better riders. The costs for these observers of the running of the bikes, fuel, insurance, and time, and money are staggeringly high.
4. A way of life: For many in the group, they do this because it is a way of life, that they don't even count the costs of commitment to. Training others, orders all their other commitments, to all other aspects of life.
5. Others: The group exists for the benefit of others. It's about making other people better riders.
6. Healing: I've lost count of the personal stories of how riding, belonging to a group sharing life together helping others, has brought meaning and joy to their lives, and affected all other aspects positively.
7. Evangelism: And its the most natural thing in the world to invite other to join, get involved and order their lives similarly, with no embarrassment or shame for doing so.
I'm sure you'd find this in common with many sports and societies, and no-one would think it odd to be involved in this way. It again makes me wonder why Christian discipleship isn't offered or afforded this level of engage and commitment?